Austin’s repeal of homeless camping ban ‘is not working’

Facing the possibility Austin voters could reinstate the city’s homeless camping ban in May, Mayor Steve Adler said the city’s existing plan of action has failed.

Austin’s homeless: “Where should we go?”

UP NEXT

UP NEXT

In a conversation with the American-Statesman, Adler acknowledged that the 2019 repeal of the city’s camping ban “is not working.” He suggested City Council members should get together with Austin residents to propose alternative solutions for addressing the city’s growing homelessness crisis.

“Going back to where we were we know doesn’t work – and what we’re doing now we also know doesn’t work,” Adler told the Statesman.

His comments come after the group Save Austin Now said it has submitted 27,000 signed petitions to the city clerk to add language to the ballot for the May 1 election that would reinstate the camping ban. After failing last year to get the 20,000 valid signatures the city requires for a ballot referendum, Save Austin Now said this time it submitted 24,000 signatures that it had validated, plus 3,000 more that it did not attempt to validate. The clerk is expected to review the signatures in the coming weeks.

Adler’s comments also came shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott again weighed in on Austin’s homelessness problem. Reacting to a news story on the possible reinstatement of the camping ban, Abbott posted a tweet Wednesday threatening intervention by the state if Austin did not vote in favor of bringing back the ban.

“If Austin doesn’t reinstate the ban on homeless camping the state will do it for them,” Abbott wrote. “Contrary to what Austin leaders think no one has a right to urinate & defecate wherever they want. Homelessness promoted by Austin has also endangered public safety.”

In a news conference Thursday, the governor backed a statewide camping ban for people experiencing homelessness.

In June 2019, nine of 11 Austin City Council members voted to repeal Austin’s 23-year-old ordinance that made it illegal to sleep in public areas. No longer facing the threat of arrest, people experiencing homelessness emerged from spaces hidden from public view to form tent communities along major streets and under overpasses in the downtown area. Critics of the council’s decision say the encampments are unsightly and pose a public safety risk.

In December, the Statesman reported the city did not spend $31 million of $73.4 million it had appropriated to addressing homelessness in the most recent completed fiscal year. The amount of unspent money spoke to a lack of urgency by the city to shelter people living on the streets, according to Matt Mollica, executive director of Ending Community Homeless Coalition.

The Story of Rickey Johnson

UP NEXT

UP NEXT

At the end of December, the city hired consultant Dianna Grey to be Austin’s homeless strategy officer, a position that had been left vacant for more than a year. Grey is tasked with coordinating the city’s homelessness response among multiple departments.

Adler has said many times that addressing homelessness is the city’s biggest issue.

“We need long-term solutions,” he said. “We need to know how long it’s going to take and what it’s going to take to get the job done. But in the near term, we have to do a better job of managing shared public spaces.”

Listen to the Statesman’s news podcast: The best local news, 8 minutes a day

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Adler: Austin’s repeal of homeless camping ban ‘is not working’

Continue Reading